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Mars 'cauliflower' may hint at microbial life

Posted on Tuesday, 2 February, 2016 | Comment icon 39 comments

Could these formations have been created by alien life forms ? Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Mysterious silica formations photographed in a Martian crater could represent evidence of alien life.
The cauliflower-like shapes, which are known as micro-digitate silica protrusions, were first discovered back in 2008 by NASA's Spirit rover during its exploration of Mars' Gusev crater.

Nobody knew how they had formed at the time, but now following new research conducted in the Chilean Desert, Steven Ruff and Jack Farmer of Arizona State University have put forward the possibility that the silica formations were actually created by microbes.

The idea is based on studies of similar patterns formed by microbial life on Earth - in particular in Chile's Atacama desert where the conditions are very similar to those on mars.

The same type of formations have also been observed at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

If it turns out that the patterns on Mars really were created by microbes then it means that these strange formations could be the first ever direct evidence of extraterrestrial life.

Ruling out geological interpretations however is going to be difficult.

"Only when something that we have identified as a potential biosignature is proven to have been produced only by life, and not by any abiotic means, can we make the claim that definitive evidence for life has been found," said Sherry Cady of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland.

Sadly it seems unlikely that a definitive answer is going to be found anytime soon.

Source: Smithsonian Magazine | Comments (39)

Tags: Mars, Life

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #30 Posted by qxcontinuum on 8 February, 2016, 5:13
what if the rover is actually there?
Comment icon #31 Posted by DONTEATUS on 8 February, 2016, 17:20
What If Mark Watney forgot the Salad Dressing ?
Comment icon #32 Posted by unicronz on 8 February, 2016, 19:32
very interesting... only took 8 years to figure that out? hmm.
Comment icon #33 Posted by PersonFromPorlock on 9 February, 2016, 1:54
Note supposedly posted on an RAF bulletin board during the Battle of Britain: "If you MUST crash, please crash in a field of brussels sprouts."
Comment icon #34 Posted by william joseph on 9 February, 2016, 5:31
Remember the "rat" image on Mars? It was actually an arctic lemming on Devon Island. Remember the image of the vertebrae? That was actually the remains of a walrus. I did some research on Devon Island and some people think some of the Mars rover images are taken there. I am certain the rovers are on Mars but I am now pondering whether some of the images are from Devon and Utah.
Comment icon #35 Posted by Reepa on 11 February, 2016, 11:40
Can't believe so many people don't seem to like Sprouts, free them with onion and diced bacon and you're onto a winner!!!
Comment icon #36 Posted by Kurzweil on 11 February, 2016, 11:43
It saddens me that onions and bacon were held captive too.
Comment icon #37 Posted by Harte on 12 February, 2016, 0:32
Onion itself brings freedom, of a sort. Harte
Comment icon #38 Posted by Harte on 12 February, 2016, 0:34
Unless you are referring to pics posted on conspiracy sites, I hope you realize that notion borders on insane. Like they don't have enough barrenness right there in front of their cameras on Mars? Harte

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